Reviewing an album by Grace Jones is not that easy because she has several superb albums, so choosing one has implications.
Well, I chose Inside Story for several reasons. Fist, because it is one of her lesser known and also of her lesser important ones. It marked a return to more mainstream pop music with strong 80s influences and thus is noticeably different from the more experimental stuff she released from Warm Leatherette through to Slave to the Rhythm. Inside Story was followed by the even less famous and less important Bulletproof Heart that features a big bunch of forgettable mediocrity but one stellar exception – Amado Mio – that reminds of her avant-garde-glory. Another reason I chose to review Inside Story is that it enables me to save gems like Slave to the Rhythm or Nightclubbing for a later time. It might also garner me more site visits though web-search-engines, since somewhere out there in this world there have to be people listening to the album, wanting to know more about it and finding little on the net. Heehee, clever I.
Inside Story was released in 1986 by Manhattan Records and produced by über-famous Nile Rodgers, who probably had a lot to do with mainstreaming Grace’s sound, for better or for worse. The album saw multiple single-releases, but none of them became a hit, so you really don’t have to excuse yourself if you think that her last single in the 80s was Slave to the Rhythm.
I’m not perfect (but I’m perfect for you) & Hollywood Liar & Party Girl & Crush
I’m not perfect was released as the first single, and okay, my memories of the 80s are somewhat blurry (‘cause I was young, alright). I don’t think it’s particularly catchy or fun, but someone apparently did. Much like I’m not perfect, Hollywood Liar sounds like your typical 80s song that is neither very inspired nor totally forgettable. It’s just there, it’s not really party, it’s not really fun, nor is it dramatic enough to stick to your brain. To me at least. Judging from the albums intro, you wouldn’t think that this could be a review-worthy album…
Party Girl opens with the most embarrassing intro of all the songs on Inside Story. Fortunately it gets slightly better from there, unfortunately not a lot better. And yes, the horrible background vocals do not help. Out of the four songs labelled as mediocre Crush could probably have gotten farther, but something is just missing. There are promising touches here and there, musically and vocally, but they remain too standard and boring to make a good song. A waste really.
To me these four songs are really basically just bland, not exactly forgettable, but sound like something that I’ve heard before a thousand times, and oftentimes it seemed to have been better.
Slightly above average
Scary but Fun & White Collar Crime
These two songs are really interesting, because they could have easily appeared in the category before, but there is something about them that makes them more enjoyable. They somehow manage to transcend the standard 80s pop song cheesiness and succeed in making me hum along and think about them even when they’re over. With Scary it’s probably because the build-up of verses and chorus manages to be dramatic without being overly embarrassing, except for the backing vocals by that guy that also ruined the backing v’s on Party Girl. The advantage of White Collar Crime probably lies in its subject matter – I mean how effin’ ridiculous but at the same time strangely fabulous is it to have Grace Jones singing about White Collar Crimes? Like that ever mattered to her or would make her more relatable to the general public? Nice try, honey.
Stealing from a company, taking all the profits
Chan hitchhikes to Shanghai & Victor should have been a Jazz Musician
Chan opens with a gong and turns into a very 80s pop-song. It’s faster than Victor, but equally melancholic. This is a song that you should probably encounter ultra-wasted at a mediocre party in some dark and dirty club as one of the last songs played. Sets the mood for riding the subway home and makes you think of Chan and wonder: Did he make it to Shanghai (and why would Ms. Jones care)?
Victor does practically the same, but is more for smoking a last cigarette before going to bed at 5 in the morning. A little Jazzy it gives you the feeling that Grace really wants you to grab all the chances you get to not end up like a Victor who was a Jazz Musician to the bone but never really made it as one. That makes sense, right?
Made Of Awesome
Barefoot in Beverly Hills & Inside Story
Barefoot opens with happy drums and high-pitched voices singing to you about walking barefoot through Beverly Hills. Alrighty, I’ll give you that: Grace Jones singing about how she kept it real and survived all the Hollywood Bullshiz isn’t really what we’d like to hear about on our average Sunday afternoon tea party, because really, having suffered through J.Lo’s from the block-blah, we’re naturally having allergic reactions to celebrity nonsense. But it’s a very uplifting song, and although I really don’t believe it anytime else I believe – listening to that song – that Grace learned a lot from the business and became a wiser and stronger person. It’s a song that is both sweet and somewhat melancholic with that golden glow on the horizon that promises that the future that lies ahead is a bright one.
Now that Grace actually released another album in 2009, after a 20-year hiatus, it’s interesting to compare the new William’s Blood that is about her mother’s side of the family with Inside Story that clearly deals with her relationship to her dad. Much like Barefoot it is a song that is bittersweet yet uplifting. Musically it features a pretty cool opening and drums, which is always a plus in my book. Her vocals become fuller and fuller, in combination with the instrumentation, and then in the chorus – yeah! – a choir. That song has me joining the choir every time I hear it. Things are good, and they’ll get better. That is the Inside Story that I’m hearing.
Trahsy underwear, living it up in L.A.
So, if you haven’t had a listen to the album yet, I highly recommend you to go have one!